After his arrest on sex charges last year, former pastor Robert Gray admitted to a detective that he French kissed young girls at his church decades ago and hoped they would "return the affection."
Channel 4 obtained audiotapes and transcripts of the first interviews police conducted with the longtime pastor of Trinity Baptist Church.
Prior to his death earlier this month at the age of 81, Gray was facing a trial on four counts of capital sexual battery.
When Gray was arrested in May 2006 on charges of sexually abusing children in his church in the 1960s and 1970s, he did not say anything publicly, but in interrogations conducted without his lawyer present, Gray talked openly about what he did with one young girl at the school:
Officer: How did you kiss her inappropriately?
Gray: You know, French kissing.
Officer: You French kissed her?
Officer: Where were you when that happened?
Gray: I think in the office.
Gray told the officer he never molested children, that he only kissed them.
Officer: Did you ever give, give candy or money to these little girls when they left your office?
Officer: Why would they all say that you had, then?
Gray: Well, sometimes I'd give them candy.
Officer: You would give them candy?
Gray: Yes. Uh-huh.
Officer: And why would you give them candy?
Gray: It's because I loved them and I wanted to be nice to them.
During the interview, the officer told Gray he had ruined the lives of many of the victims and asked him how he felt about that.
Officer: Do you feel that you've been forgiven by God for what you've done?
Gray: I know I have.
Officer: You do? Gray: Yes, ma'am.
Officer: OK, two that I talked to have tried to commit suicide, OK?
Gray: Hm, hm.
Officer: That's how emotionally affected that you affected these girls, OK? Gray: Hm, hm.
Officer: They tried to kill themselves.
Gray: Hm, hm.
Officer: One is so disturbed that she sits in the closet in the dark and won't come out. That's how she lives her life because she's so affected by this and so upset that you did this and now you're not owning up to it. So, pretty much what you're saying is these girls are lying.
After an hour of questioning, Gray told the officer he did it because he was having problems with his first wife, and also said he was leaving the country to avoid problems for the church and the families involved.
Officer: So, when you kissed these girls, did that -- how did that make you feel? I don't want to put words in your mouth.
Officer: How did that make you feel?
Gray: Well, I thought they could just return the affection.
Officer: So, you did it because you thought that they were being affectionate towards you?
Officer: OK, and you needed that, that feeling that they loved you?
Officer: Well, you know they all did love you?
Gray: Yeah, and that's the sad part.
Officer: And you've took advantage of them.
Gray: You're right. I've tried to.
Officer: OK, well I have a statement from Mrs. Dodd saying that one time she did -- she walked in and, and there was a little girl on your lap and you pushed her off real quick and you had an erection and she left and...
Gray: How would she know that?
Officer: I guess she saw it, sir.
Beyond the questions about his interaction with children, the police interrogation also delved into why Gray resigned as pastor of Trinity Christian.
He said it had to do with the allegations of a girl.
Officer: So, why did you resign -- because they asked you to?
Gray: No, they did not ask me to. I resigned because out of respect for ______'s mother and stepfather who said if I stayed at the church they would leave, and I said, 'Well, that won't be necessary because we'd already planned to go to Germany as missionaries.'
Gray told the investigator that was one reason he left the church in 1992, but he added he received a visit from an investigator from HRS -- what is now the Department of Children and Families.
Officer: That just doesn't make sense. Did you not want it reported to the police?
Gray: No, ma'am. In fact, I figured it was since the lady came and talked to me from the HRS.
Officer: OK, and what was the outcome of that?
Gray: Well, she said that, that ________ would have to prefer charges and she didn't.
Officer: She didn't because you were leaving the church. I talked to _____.
Gray: OK, that's one.
Gray: Of the reasons she gave.
Officer: Yes, sir. She said that she did not proceed with prosecution or prosecuting you because you were leaving the church.
The officers also asked Gray if his wife at the time was aware of what happened.
Officer: And what did your wife say about all this?
Gray: My first wife?
Officer: Hm, hm.
Gray: Well, she was very upset. I promised her it would never happen again and it didn't.
Officer: But then you moved on to kissing girls at school.
Gray: Maybe at the same time, I don't know.
Officer: OK. Do you feel bad about what you've done?
Gray: Well, sure I feel bad about it and I've wept 100 times over this.
Officer: Why, why, why did you do it?
Gray: I can't, I can't give you a reason. There's no good reason for doing wrong.
Throughout the interview, Gray said he only had three or four victims he could recall.
Despite his death, accusations that Gray molested children decades ago while he was pastor at Trinity Baptist Church will not go away. While the criminal charges will not go forward, six civil cases filed against the church he led for nearly 40 years will continue.